There are so many personal stories along our Schoone Oordt journey. Too many to recount here, but this is a shortened rambling for some fun reading…
We stumbled upon Schoone Oordt whilst searching for a farm in the area. We also stumbled upon the fact that we were pregnant, which was quite fortuitous, considering that we wanted to raise children in the country. It was simply love at first sight with both baby and the house and so begins a loooong story spanning many years (many more than anticipated).
We didn’t have huge capital and scraped everything that we owned together to purchase the house. We received occupancy in May of 2003, but waited for Kai to be born before moving here. This happened in the November and Richard, myself and a tiny baby moved into 3 rooms of the downstairs of the house. The rest was in a bit of a mess and so begun our restoration project. Every single bit of wooden ceiling, door, shutter was painted and needed to be stripped, sanded, varnished and re-hung.
Whilst restoring the wooden ceiling in the entrance hall, Richard found the beautiful pieces of ancient wallpaper that we’ve framed and hung in the foyer as well as huge amounts of ancient dust. We have used this same wallpaper as the background of our website. We sandblasted the filigree lace at the front of the house to expose the beautiful detail under about 100 years of paint. Unfortunately, the contractors didn’t board up the windows properly and the original glass was also sandblasted and needed to be replaced. This was heartbreaking. Richard rebuilt the staircase himself, the conservatory, the tea and coffee stations in every room and the beautiful panelling in all of the bathrooms. The Victorian baths as well as the toilet cisterns are all original cast iron and have been lovingly refurbished.
We completely gutted the kitchen, rebuilt the cabinets with reclaimed Oregon pine from a ship’s deck and Richard restored a magnificent old ‘Frigidaire’ which was covered in bird guano and rescued from under a tree. Of course whilst this was happening, we didn’t have a kitchen and had to bath ourselves, baby and the dishes in the bathroom downstairs (where the two toilets are now). Luckily we didn’t use the same water. We had a camping table and the gas stove as well as our couch and a TV set up in what is now the dining room as our kitchen and lounge. What is now the office was baby Kai’s room and the ‘storeroom/about to be library and games room’ was our bedroom.
We’d hoped to open within two years, but trying to raise finances and working through huge amounts of bureaucratic red tape with the property being a heritage site, we ultimately planned to open in November of 2006 with a very dear friend’s wedding. Unfortunately, this was the wettest winter in recorded history as well as having to endure quite a severe building accident which delayed us. We had a small team of builders from Cape Town who lived on the property and helped with the necessary brickwork. They were in the process of throwing a 9 cubic metre concrete slab on top of the garage for the balcony of the meeting room and one of the struts shifted. The whole thing came crashing down along with three builders. Luckily nobody was hurt, but we had to call poor Penny, who was understandably devastated, to say that we couldn’t finish all 10 rooms and clean the property up for a wedding. We managed to get 5 rooms fitted and threw a massive tarpaulin over the building mess for her, but at the absolute last minute. Literally, tiling the showers as the guests were arriving. It was one of those classic BBC programmes… The wedding was fabulous and we’re still friends, but we closed down again for another year to finish (we had toretile the showers and unblock the drains from the wet cement that had been squished down there). We managed to open properly (enough) in November of 2007.
It’s been a constant work in progress… Having more babies and undertaking more major renovation through virtually every winter since then.
We’ve had amazing guests and wonderful support and it’s been such a brilliant journey… Richard, myself and the children have moved to Grabouw for schooling and to be closer to Cape Town for Richard’s business, but with Wander and Sonette joining our team, we start a new and very exciting chapter.
Thank you for joining us, for a little bit of your own journey.